01-24-2012, 02:05 PM
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Picking up on ladayen's point, have you tested the tap water alone for ammonia (and nitrite and nitrate for that matter)? It is useful to know if any of these are present, and in what level. From your first post I am thinking ammonia might be in the tap water. This is easy to deal with, but we need to know.
Second, nitrosomonas bacteria will use ammonia and ammonium, which ever is present. So a conditioner like Prime that detoxifies ammonia into ammonium will not affect the cycling. Most test kits read ammonia/ammonium as "ammonia" but Prime and other similar products are effective for 24-48 hours. The pH of the tank water also impacts this; in acidic water ammonia automatically changes into ammonium. You haven't mentioned the pH. If it is basic (above 7), then the ammonium (if still present in the water) will turn back into ammonia once Prime has become ineffective.
On the plants, I agree that if you are dosing ammonia, do not plant the tank. Plants assimilate ammonium directly; with ammonia, it enters the cell by simple diffusion across the membrane, and then combines with a hydrogen ion and converts to ammonium. Ammonium can be stored. Plants can also use the ammonia to synthesize proteins. This is dependent upon the plant species and the number of plants; some can only tolerate up to 1 mg/liter of ammonia, while others can tolerate up to 26 mg/l. This is where fast growing plants are best, because they can use toxic ammonia and combine it with stored carbohydrates to form amino acids; the faster growing the plant, the more carbohydrates it has. Tom Barr once told me that you would have to overstock the aquarium quite a bit before the plants' capacity for taking up ammonia would be reached.
I still prefer plants in new tanks rather than messing with some form of cycling. In more than 15 years I have set up many tanks and never "cycled" any of them. Diana Walstad, a microbiologist, has frequently written of this method, and many now accept it as safe. With sufficient plants, you can set up a new tank with some fish on day one and you will never have ammonia or nitrite at levels that can be detected by our test kits, and the fish will not be adversely affected. It is still the safest method. A nitrification cycle will establish itself, it has to, but without detriment.
Last edited by Byron; 01-24-2012 at 06:47 PM..